This year has been difficult for everyone—members of the British royal family included. From Harry and Meghan’s unprecedented move to L.A. to an intimate, socially-distanced wedding in Windsor, here are the biggest royal moments of 2020.
It’s almost hard to think back to January when the Sussexes first announced their intentions to step away from royal life and to move to North America. But even with everything that’s gone on in 2020—namely, a global health crisis, multiple lockdowns, and two heirs to the throne testing positive for COVID-19—their decision may remains this year’s most consequential moment for the British royal family.
The word “unprecedented” has been working overtime this year, and Harry and Meghan’s choice to leave their positions as working royals was just that—but despite the shock and awe at the Sussexes’ initial break with the monarchy (and the tense negotiations and rumors of a royal rift between Harry and William that followed) the public still has only has a vague sense of what Harry and Meghan’s life and work will look like moving forward.
Shortly after the Sussexes officially left their positions as working royals in March, the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe, Canada, and the United States, forcing them to put the lion’s share of their plans on hold, including fully launching their new non-profit, Archewell. But what they have accomplished this year—launching a burgeoning content empire with deals at Netflix and Spotify, undertaking numerous speaking gigs, finding avenues for politically-tinged advocacy, making a public investment in a small business, and establishing new ways of communicating with the public, like Meghan’s piece in the New York Times about her miscarriage—offers a hint at what’s to come for the couple in the months ahead.
In the early days of the pandemic, when so much was still unknown, Queen Elizabeth shared a message of resilience. The steadfast monarch acknowledged that while there are challenges yet to endure, this too shall pass, and assured that we would one day be together again with family and friends. Her rare televised speech, broadcast from Windsor Castle, was intended for her subjects—but it seemed as if the whole world was listening, and finding hope in her words.
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Tom Hanks was perhaps the first celebrity in the western world to publicly announce he was suffering from COVID-19, but Prince Charles but wasn’t far behind the Academy Award winner. In March, Clarence House confirmed reports that the septuagenarian heir to the British throne had tested positive for the disease, adding that he was only displaying mild symptoms.
Fortunately, the Prince of Wales has made a full recovery, and has continued to carry out duties throughout the pandemic, while following government health and safety recommendations.
“Having recently gone through this process of contracting the coronavirus, I now find myself on the other side of this illness, but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation,” he said in April.
“None of us can say when this will end, but end it will. Until it does, let us all try and live with hope and, with faith in ourselves and each other, look forward to better times to come.”
While news of Prince Charles contracting COVID-19 was shared with the press fairly quickly following his diagnosis, Prince William’s diagnosis was controversially kept from the public for several months. He tested positive for the disease in April, but didn’t disclose it until November.
William seems to be in good health now, and just recently gave a speech at a pantomime performance for essential workers and their families, but the Sun reported that earlier this year William was “hit pretty hard by the virus,” and at one point was even “struggling to breathe.” To this date, Kensington Palace has not publicly commented on William’s health.
Even the hardest of years is not without its joyful moments. Amid the pandemic, Princess Eugenie shared that she and her husband Jack Brooksbank are expecting their first child in early 2021, posting a sweet announcement on her personal Instagram account.
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With only the closest friends and family in attendance, Princess Beatrice’s Windsor ceremony were perhaps the most intimate royal wedding of the modern era—but highly glamorous nonetheless. Wearing her grandmother’s vintage gown and the sparkling Queen Mary diamond fringe tiara (which Queen Elizabeth wore on her own wedding day in 1947), Beatrice’s bridal look told a story of royal history, solidarity, and the bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter.
Looking back at the few publicly released photos, it’s clear that the event is also a masterclass in how the royals can leverage fashion to craft a media narrative. The exclusion of the Princess’s father, Prince Andrew, from his daughter’s official wedding photos (presumably because of his association with Jeffrey Epstein) was, for the most part, outshone by the emotional significance of the bride’s jewels.
This one isn’t so much a moment, per se, as a trend that I sincerely hope continues, even after the pandemic is in the rearview. This year, through snapshots and video calls, fans have been able to peek inside the royals’ tchotchke-filled personal spaces—windows, perhaps, into their psyches. A tiny figurine in this photo of Charles and Camilla’s Birkhall home had me once again ruminating on the Prince of Wales’s curious and profound love of squirrels.
That’s it. There’s just something delightful to see the nonagenarian utilizing video calls to continue to fulfill her duties even in a global health crisis. As she said earlier this month, “Thank goodness for technology.”